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Virtual Speaking: How Valuable the Hypervisor?

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Dec 15, 2006


Amy Newman
As ISVs enter the virtualization fray, are the hypervisor and virtual server environments taking a back seat?

In some respects, the virtualization space is becoming a reflection of the larger server market where the operating system has evolved from differentiator to commodity. The selection process has become all about the applications that run on the operating systems being evaluated.

Similarly, in the virtualization space, as the trend for hypervisors continue to standardize around three options (i.e., Microsft Virtual Server, VMware and Xen), they too are being commodified. As a result, many of the emerging stories are about the applications that can run on it.

This week, there was no shortage of virtual offerings unveiled. First, BEA Systems officially entered the virtualization software market. On Monday, it unveiled WebLogic Server Virtual Edition (WLS-VE), the first fruits of a software blueprint that will enable Java applications to run on virtualized hardware.

The software component of WLS-VE that enables it has been named Liquid VM. Liquid VM is a Java virtual machine that runs between WLS-VE and a VMware or XenSource hypervisor, assuming the operating system functions needed to run a Java app without a standard operating system.

WLS-VE is expected to be generally available in the first quarter of 2007. Next summer, the ISV plans to add Liquid Operations Control to WLS-VE. Liquid Operations Control will be able to manage any Java application running on a virtualized machines.

Another vendor with news to share this week was Cassatt. Although not nearly as prominent as BEA, its news is perhaps even more significant.

Cassatt released version 4.0 of its flagship Collage software suite. The software uses new Network Virtualization Service (NVS) software to configure network switches. Resources can now be pooled and shared across networks in a virtual local area network (VLAN).

The new version has kicked it up a notch to manage the complexity. While previous versions of Collage managed one network, version 4.0 can administer resources across several networks. Version 4.0 can also manage physical, virtual, application server and network resources.

Finally, and perhaps most valuable, is how it now handles the various hypervisors. In the past, Collage could support either physical servers or VMware virtual machines, not both. Now, the Cross-Virtualization Manager (XVM) module simultaneously supports automated management of VMware ESX 3.0, Xen 3.0 and XenSource XenEnterprise 3.0 virtual machines.

Cassatt Collage 4.0 and the new release of the Cassatt Collage Cross-Virtualization Manager (XVM) are scheduled to be generally available and ship Dec. 29.

While the hypervisor front may be commoditizing, the jury is still out on virtual environments.

This week, Xen-based Virtual Iron released version 3.1.1 of its virtualization environment. Mike Grandinetti, vice president and chief marketing officer, described the offering as "a milestone for the industry." The latest rev, he told ServerWatch, makes it the only offering out there poised to compete directly with VMware's products. It's chief advantage? The capabilities it offers at a much lower selling price.

At $499 per socket, Virtual Iron is claiming capabilities comparable to VMware for less than 20 percent of the cost.

It's also offering two ways to use the downloadable software: The first option is a free single-server perpetual license for up to four sockets and an unlimited number of cores. The second option, if you prefer a multi-server environment, is a free 30-day evaluation license under which you get all the capabilities of the single-server offering along with Virtual Iron's advanced virtualization management and policy-based automation designed to be used in a multi-server environment.

Virtual Iron has been slowly gaining share on the virtualization scene. Two major customer wins it announced this week were Mobius and the Charlotte Observer.

Virtual Iron is clearly digging in its heels to fight the good fight. Competition leads to options and optimization, which is never a bad thing — especially in an industry as new as the virtualization space.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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